Firefighter of the Year award dinner will be today

The Merced County Fire Department will hold the 2010 Firefighter of the Year awards dinner today.

The event, which will honor outstanding firefighters across the county, is open to the public at a cost of $10 a ticket.

Each fire department in the county chooses an outstanding firefighter from its ranks. There are about 500 firefighters in the county, including careerists and volunteers, said Brian Neely, a battalion chief for Merced County.

The award recipients will include firefighters at departments in Dos Palos, Gustine, Livingston, Los Banos, Merced, Merced County and the volunteer programs for Merced County and Los Banos.

"I just cannot say enough about the group of men and women who are part of the fire departments of Merced County. They are completely dedicated to their profession and show this in the job that they do for the community," Dale Hutchinson, Merced County fire chief, said in a news release announcing the event. "It is an honor to show our appreciation to our firefighters for each and every day they are on the front lines protecting our communities and saving lives."

The awards dinner will be held at the American Legion Hall, Post 83, 939 W. Main St., Merced. Dinner will begin at 6 p.m., and the awards ceremony will start at 6:45 p.m.

-- Danielle E. Gaines